A trip worth taking. 7 things you need to know about content hierarchy

The aim of your website is to take users on a journey. Get them on board and they’ll follow you anywhere. Guide them to where they want to be quickly and easily and they’ll queue up for more. But how do you ensure the journey to their destination is a smooth one?

Get to know content hierarchy.

Content hierarchy is deciding the content visible to your audience at any stage throughout their journey. To get them where they want to be (signing up to your mailing list, delighting in your tempting wares), content hierarchy is the map that shows the way. Here’s the lowdown:

  1. Know your audience. Before pencil hits paper, before the first pixel’s pushed, understand who you’re designing for. The more you know about your audience, the more instinctive your site.
  2. Walk in their shoes. As a designer, once I know who we’re reaching out to, I get inside their head and work from their viewpoint. I put things where they’d look for them and resolve problems before they occur. Design that’s easy to absorb and navigate is the sweet spot and well-structured information leads users through their journey without hitch. Testing with the user at the forefront continues throughout the project’s lifecycle and once the product is live.
  3. Forget the fold, it’s all about the flow. We used to talk about ‘the fold’ a lot in web design (it refers to the old days of newspapers putting all their juicy bits above the fold to bait readers). Over time this approach led to crowded home pages, information overload and unclear direction. Now we consider the ‘user flow’ or the ‘user journey’.
  4. Keep it simple. It’s important to differentiate the content and clearly direct users around your site, not overload them with choices. Strip back the required user actions, or stagger them so they’re processed individually. Decision-making is easier if it’s not oversaturated.
  5. More on that flow. User flow or journey is the organization of your information and it’s the crux of content hierarchy. By auditing content we’re able to highlight more common or popular choices, allowing the consumer to find what they’re looking for faster. Consider: the ‘Add to Basket’ button is always going to be much larger than ‘Add to Wishlist’ because adding the product to basket is the primary choice. It’s obvious but it works.
  6. Don’t make them work for it. Decision fatigue is a thing! According to recent research, the adult brain makes 35,000 decisions a day e.g. ‘What’s going in my smoothie today?’, ‘Which coffee do I want?’, ‘Do I deserve cake?’ (of course you do) – all this before midday. It’s important to question every step on your user journey, don’t add to the thought process if you don’t need to.
  7. Just give them what they want! I’m on a website and the first three actions I have to perform are ‘Close the Cookie Privacy notice’, ‘Close the Newsletter Signup’ and then ‘Close live chat’… I’m exhausted and I hate your website.

But all this could’ve been avoided if these actions were integrated into an appropriate section. Make it easy to find what they’re after. You know what they want – give it to them!

At Giant Peach we work with you to figure out what you’re best at and what sets you apart so that we can organise content and structure information, good design is invisible but content hierarchy isn’t something that will go unnoticed.